Three thousand six hundred meals and counting have been served by Aiken Electric Cooperative to out-of-state linemen who have been working 16 to 18 hour days to get power restored in Aiken County after the ice storm.
“We were glad to come, and the staff and community has been wonderful to us,” said John Brown, a lineman from Energy United in Statesville, N.C. “I got here Sunday and we've had hot meals everyday, so I really appreciate that gesture.”
Executive Assistant Lynn West said those meals have included 45 dozen eggs – or 540 total eggs – per day for nine straight days, for breakfast alone. Just like the linemen, the staff members have also worked extended hours to make sure the workers have quality meals before working such long days.
“It sounds like a lot, but they have to eat,” West said during a special dinner on Wednesday night the company provided for the out-of-town linemen. “We were nicknamed the 'kitchen crew' and we have started at about 3 a.m. every morning so we can provide hot meals for them.”
Aiken Electric called in about 175 additional workers from Florida, North Carolina, Mississippi, Kentucky and Georgia to help fix power lines after last week's winter storm that left Aiken frozen under 1.25 inches of ice. Anticipating the worst, the company sent out a news release last Tuesday alerting the public that help was already on the way.
Austin Story, another Energy United worker, said this is the first storm he has been dispatched to work. The experience, he said, has shown him that residents are very thankful to see the company's trucks pull up into their yards.
“A lot of times, they're really thankful to see you and anxious to get their power back,” he said. “Being able to do that for them is a great feeling.”
To prepare for the workers, West said another part of her responsibility was coordinating hotel arrangements. The task, she said, proved to be difficult because families in the area who didn't have power were also going to those hotels.
When all of the hotels were full, Aiken Electric got innovative and set up cots and air mattresses for the linemen inside the building.
Company CEO Gary Stooksbury added, “These guys have been working countless hours for the past eight days. They have worked a tremendous amount of hours in some very tough and trying conditions, and we do see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
As of noon on Thursday, Aiken Electric had a reported 69 remaining outages in Aiken County.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.